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Spartans Back At Home Against Nicholls State

The Spartans return to Breslin to host Nicholls State on Saturday.

Nov. 30, 2012

#13/14 Michigan State (5-2) vs. Nicholls State (1-2)
 Date Saturday, Dec. 1
 Time 12 p.m. ET
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center
 Television BTN (Kevin Kugler, Sam Vincent)
 Radio Spartan Sports Network (Will Tieman, Gus Ganakas, Matt Steigenga)
 Tickets Available at
 Game Notes Michigan State | Nicholls State
 Statistics  Michigan State | Nicholls State
 Internet Coverage   Gametracker | Live Stats (Mobile Users)
 Social Media @MSU_Basketball   |  Facebook

Michigan State opens December with a home game against Nicholls State. The Spartans are looking to bounce back from a loss suffered Wednesday at Miami. MSU will be playing its eighth game of the season, while NSU is playing just its fourth contest.

1. There's An App For That
Keith Appling leads the Spartans in scoring (16.6 ppg - 5th Big Ten) and assists (4.1 apg - 6th Big Ten), having led MSU in scoring in six of seven games. One area where Appling has improved over last season is his outside shooting, as he is shooting .423 (11-of-26) from 3-point range, compared to .250 (24-of-96) in 2011-12. He's doing all this while being forced to play 35.7 minutes per game, while two of his backcourt teammates were injured. His play has not gone unnoticed by his head coach, as Tom Izzo remarked "I'm not an easy guy to please. But I'm really excited for him and proud of him for what he's doing right now in an incredible way."

2. Harris Returns To The Court
Gary Harris suffered a shoulder sprain in the first defensive possession of the game against Boise State, and missed the two games following that one. Harris returned to action eight days later at Miami, coming off the bench to contribute 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds in 25 minutes. He has scored in double figures in all four games where he played more than one minute, and he was just the third freshman in MSU history to score in double figures in each of his first three games.

3. Success At Breslin
Michigan State is 315-45 (.875) all-time since Breslin Center opened in 1989, including 163-34 (.827) in Big Ten play. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 241-30 (.889) at Breslin, including a 122-21 (.853) conference record. MSU has won 22 of the last 23 games at Breslin, including 13 straight non-conference games. The Spartans have won 65 of the last 66 non-conference home games, and 67 straight games against unranked non-conference opponents at Breslin.

4. In The Paint
Michigan State has out-scored its opponents in the paint by an average of +11.5 (34.9-23.4), out-scoring five of its seven opponents. MSU has dominated the paint in three of its last five games, out-scoring Texas Southern (46-10), Oakland (40-16), and Miami (30-14).

5. Too Many Turnovers
One early area of concern for Michigan State is the number of turnovers, as the Spartans are averaging 15.9 per game, including 20 in back-to-back games against Oakland and Louisiana. MSU's primary ballhandler Keith Appling, however, is averaging just 2.6 per contest despite averaging more than 35 minutes, posting a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. In its last game, MSU equalled its season low with just 12 turnovers against Miami.

Series History
Michigan State leads the all-time series 2-0, with both previous games being played at Breslin Center.

The Last Meeting
Michigan State defeated Nicholls State, 102-52, on Nov. 28, 2004, in East Lansing. The Spartans were dominant in all phases, shooting 50.0% from the field, while holding the Colonels to 32.2%, and out-rebounding NSU, 52-29, including collecting 19 offensive rebounds. Maurice Ager led five Spartans in double figures with 19 points, while Kelvin Torbert scored 16 and Shannon Brown and Alan Anderson each added 15. MSU's defense also forced 26 turnovers.

Coach Piper
J.P. Piper (SE Louisiana, `91) is 89-145 in nine seasons at Nicholls State. Prior to becoming head coach, he spent two seasons as an assistant for the Colonels. He was named the 2009 Southland Conference Coach of the Year, and was named the 2007 conference coach of the year by He is 11 wins away from becoming just the fourth coach in school history to win 100 games.

Colonel Notes
Senior guard Fred Hunter was a preseason second-team All-Southland Conference selection, and is the team's leading scorer at 21.7 ppg, having sat out all of last year to rehab a knee injury ... Beginning with the game against MSU, Nicholls State will be on the road for every game in December - a span of seven contests ... The Colonels' roster features four returning starters ... NSU is coming off its first win of the season, having defeated New Orleans on Monday, 92-79, in large part due to 75.0 percent shooting in the first half (15-of-20).

Michigan State dropped its game to Miami in the 14th ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The game was tight throughout the first half, with neither team able to build a large lead. MSU's 28-23 lead with 3:28 left in the half was the largest margin for either team. The Spartans held a 31-27 lead at the break thanks to seven points each from Keith Appling and Branden Dawson. Miami opened the second half on a 14-2 run, claiming a 41-33 lead. With 10:17 left in the game, Derrick Nix hit a shot, pulling MSU within six points at 48-42. But the Spartans went cold after that, going 5:22 without another field goal, missing six straight shots in that stretch, as the Hurricanes pushed their lead up to 12 points at 57-45. MSU never got closer than eight points in the final seven minutes of the contest. For the game, Miami shot 56.3 percent from 3-point range, including 62.5 percent (5-of-8) in the second half, led by Trey McKinney Jones, who knocked down five of seven attempts from beyond the arc.

* Michigan State fell to 6-7 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, dropping its first ever meeting with Miami.
* It marked the first game where all 11 non-redshirting scholarship Spartans played.
* Gary Harris returned to the lineup after missing two games, and all but one minute of a third, with a shoulder sprain, recording 12 points and a team-high eight boards.
* Travis Trice saw his first action since suffering a concussion in the season opener and missing five games. Trice scored nine points, knocking down all three 3-pointers.
* Miami shot 56.3 percent from 3-point range, a season-high for a Spartan opponent.
* Michigan State equalled a season-low with 12 turnovers.
* The first half featured six ties and nine lead changes.
* Michigan State held a 30-14 advantage in points in the paint and 23-5 edge in bench scoring.
* Michigan State shot 45.5% (5-of-11) at the foul line compared to 88.9% (16-of-18) for Miami.

It's All About Boardwork
Michigan State has led the nation in rebounding in four of the last 13 seasons (2000, 2001, 2009, 2010), ranking in the Top 10 eight times and the Top 25 on 11 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding in 12 of the last 15 years. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 452 of 588 opponents (.769), posting a 358-94 (.792) mark in those games. The Spartans have out-rebounded all seven opponents this season, posting a +9.6 margin, including averaging 12.0 offensive rebounds per game.

Searching For A Rotation
Michigan State has used four different starting lineups through the season's first seven games, as the Spartans work with different combinations. Nine players are averaging more than 14 minutes per game, and 11 are averaging six minutes or more. Finding a rotation is a chore for the Spartan coaching staff that's been made even more difficult due to injuries to Travis Trice, Matt Costello and Gary Harris. In fact, the game at Miami was the first game in which all 11 scholarship players saw action, and even then, Trice and Harris were just coming off injuries.

Spartan Defense
The 2011-12 season was one of Michigan State's best defensive efforts on record. The Spartans ranked second in the nation, allowing opponents to shoot .379 from the field, the lowest percentage by Spartan opponents since 1957-58 (.343). In addition, MSU ranked No. 15 in the nation in scoring defense (59.3 ppg) and 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.299). This season, MSU is allowing opponents to shoot .386 from the field, including .320 from 3-point range.

Dawson's Recovery
On March 4, 2012, Branden Dawson suffered a season-ending torn left ACL. With no swelling, he was able to have surgery two days later, putting him ahead of schedule from the beginning. The quick healing continued through the summer, and Dawson was a full participant when practice opened in mid-October. He currently ranks third on the team in scoring (11.3 ppg), third in rebounding (6.1 rpg), and second in minutes played (27.7 mpg), despite being just over eight months removed from surgery. Still, it's tough to make up for missing the entire summer both in terms of conditioning and skill development.

Trice Is Back
Travis Trice played 12 minutes at Miami, scoring nine points on 3-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range. It was the first action for the reserve point guard since suffering a concussion and broken nose in the second half of MSU's season-opener against Connecticut in Germany. His return will take some of the ball-handling duties off Keith Appling's shoulders. In the five games that Trice missed, Appling was forced to play 36.4 minutes per contest.

Payne's Efficiency
Junior center Adreian Payne ranks sixth in the Big Ten with a .618 field-goal percentage (21-of-34). Payne is averaging 7.3 points and 6.4 rebounds. The main thing limiting Payne's production is foul trouble, as he's played more than 20 minutes in just three games. In five games, Payne picked up two first-half fouls, limiting his playing time.

Spartans Shooting Better
Michigan State got off to a cold shooting start this season, failing to shoot better than 39 percent in either half in the opener against Connecticut. In the 12 halves of basketball that have followed, the Spartans have shot 50 percent or better six times. Through the first seven games, MSU is shooting .465 from the field, ranking fifth in the Big Ten. Individually, Adreian Payne ranks sixth in the conference at .618 (21-of-34).

Nix Attacks The Glass
Derrick Nix leads the Spartans and ranks sixth in the Big Ten in rebounding, averaging 7.3 caroms per contest. Nix grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds in his Spartan debut three seasons ago, but did not record double figures in rebounds again until the 2012-13 season opener when he collected 11 boards against Connecticut. Two games later, he equalled the 11-board effort against Texas Southern.

Dawson Gets Defensive
Branden Dawson has recorded 18 steals through the first seven games of the season (2.6 spg), pacing the Big Ten. As a freshman, Dawson collected 29 steals in 31 games. For comparison, Draymond Green led the 2011-12 Spartans with 54 steals.

Appling Takes Over
In three of Michigan State's five wins, Keith Appling has made key plays down the stretch to secure a Spartan victory. Against Kansas, Appling scored five points in the final 1:36, first hitting a 3-pointer to give MSU a four-point lead, and then connecting on an acrobatic driving layup with 14 seconds left to give MSU a 67-64 win. He scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half against the Jayhawks. Against Boise State, with MSU leading by two points in the final minute, Appling hit another driving layup with 14 seconds left again, this time converting on a three-point play to give MSU a 73-68 advantage. With six seconds left, he hit one of two free throws to secure the win. Against Oakland, with the Golden Grizzlies having cut the lead to four points with under seven minutes left, Appling knocked down a 3-pointer to spark a 15-1 run to close the game.

Freshman Contributions
Freshmen Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine have made key contributions early in their Spartan careers. Harris ranks second on the squad in scoring (12.0 ppg), and fifth in minutes (23.2 mpg). Valentine also has made his mark, ranking second in assists (3.1 apg), fourth in rebounds (4.4 rpg) and fourth in minutes (24.4 mpg).

Second-Chance Points
Michigan State is outscoring opponents, 90-60, in second-chance points for the season. That's an average of +4.3 points per game (12.9-8.6). The Spartans are averaging 12.0 offensive boards per game. MSU has 84 offensive rebounds on the year compared to 140 defensive rebounds for its opponents, good for an offensive rebound percentage of .375.

Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of Michigan State's first of 15 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 164 games against ranked opponents. That total ranks first among teams that have appeared in a Final Four since then. The Spartans are followed by North Carolina (152), Kentucky (147), Duke (145) and Connecticut (137). (Through Nov. 30)

Frequent Flier Miles
With trips to Ramstein Air Base (vs. Connecticut), Atlanta (vs. Kansas) and Miami, Michigan State traveled nearly 12,000 miles in the month of November. In fact, the Spartans had flown more than 9500 miles prior to their home opener.

Big Ten Strength
Once again, the Big Ten will make a strong claim as the toughest conference in college basketball. Indiana (No. 1), Michigan (No. 3), Ohio State (No. 4), Michigan State (No. 13), Minnesota (No. 21), and Illinois (No. 22) are all ranked in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 (Nov. 26), while Wisconsin received votes. To make matters more difficult for MSU, the Spartans will play a combined 11 games against those six teams during conference play. Michigan State's single plays are at Iowa and Penn State, and hosting Illinois and Northwestern. Last season, eight of the 12 league teams participated in the postseason, including five teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Another Tough Start
Last year, MSU opened the schedule with back-to-back games against ranked opponents for the first time in school history. While that won't be the case this season, the start of the year is no less formidable. The Spartans open the season in Germany, playing UConn at Ramstein Air Base in the Armed Forces Classic on Nov. 9. Four days later, the Spartans will play No. 7 Kansas, the 2012 National Runner-Up, in the Champions Classic in Atlanta, Ga. This is the first time since 1918-19 and 1919-20 that Michigan State will open the season with two games away from East Lansing in back-to-back seasons.

Payne's Block Party
Junior center Adreian Payne ranks ninth in MSU history with 79 career blocks. Paul Davis is eighth on the career list with 87 blocks. Earlier this season, Payne equalled his career high with four blocks against Kansas.

Returning Productivity
Michigan State returns four of its top six scorers and 10 of its top 13 scorers from last season. The Spartans return 58.6% of their minutes, 57.6% percent of their scoring, 51.7% of their rebounding, and 54.8% percent of their assists. Keith Appling was the only player to start all 37 games last year, while Adreian Payne (36) and Branden Dawson (31) also started more than 30 contests. In addition, Derrick Nix entered the year having started 18 games in his career. On the other hand, however, only five Spartans entered the season having played more than 350 minutes in their time at MSU.

Spartan Captains
Senior Derrick Nix and red-shirt sophomore Russell Byrd will serve as team captains during the 2012-13 season. They were chosen by a vote of their teammates, and Tom Izzo made the announcement at MSU Men's Basketball Media Day on October 9.

More Non-Conference Highlights
The games against Connecticut and Kansas to open the season get a bulk of the attention, but there are other highlights throughout the non-conference schedule. Michigan State will travel to Miami for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Nov. 28. The highlight of the home schedule is a game against Texas on Dec. 22. In addition, MSU is returning to Jenison Field House for the first time since 1989, hosting Tuskegee on Dec. 15, while also celebrating the 50th anniversary season of the "Game of Change" contest between Mississippi State and Loyola in the 1963 NCAA Tournament at Jenison.

Freshman Class
Michigan State welcomes a talented and decorated class to the team in 2012-13. Gary Harris was a 2012 McDonald's All-American, and the recipient of the Indianapolis Star Indiana Mr. Basketball award, averaging 25.4 points at Hamilton Southeastern. Matt Costello was the Hal Schram Michigan Mr. Basketball Award winner after averaging 25 points and 19 rebounds as a senior at Bay City Western. Denzel Valentine led Lansing Sexton to back-to-back Class B state championships, and was the 2012 Associated Press Class B Player of the Year after nearly averaging a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Kenny Kaminski missed most of his senior season at Medina with a shoulder injury, but returned in time to lead his team to the Elite Eight of the state tournament. Harris, Costello and Valentine all are expected to contribute this year, while a different shoulder injury makes Kaminski a possible redshirt candidate.

Big Ten Success
Michigan State has captured at least a share of the Big Ten Championship in three of the last four seasons. After winning the title outright in 2009, the Spartans shared the conference crown in 2010 and 2012. Last season, MSU also added a Big Ten Tournament title to its resume. During Tom Izzo's tenure, the Spartans have won seven regular-season titles and three tournament crowns.

Spartan Strong
Michigan State has a reputation for being a strong, physical team and the numbers back it up. Twelve players on MSU's roster can leg press over 700 pounds, with Derrick Nix leading the way with 1100 pounds. Since his arrival on campus, Keith Appling has increased his leg press by 315 pounds under the direction of Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Vorkapich. Collectively, the Spartans can leg press 6 tons - the equivalent of three cars or one African elephant. In terms of upper body strength, Nix leads the way once again, bench pressing the NBA testing standard of 185 pounds 22 times. Gary Harris is the strongest of the guards, ranking tied with Alex Gauna for second on the team with 19 repetitions.

Athletes Too
In addition to their strength, the Spartans have also proven to be incredibly athletic, leading to the up-tempo pace Michigan State desires to play this season. When Coach Izzo recruited Adreian Payne, he called Payne the most athletic big man he's ever coached. He wasn't exaggerating as Payne holds the Izzo-era record for a standing vertical jump (no step) at 38 inches. Given a running start, three players can elevate greater than 40 inches: Keith Appling (42"), Adreian Payne (41"), and Travis Trice (40.5").

Coach Izzo
In his 18th year, Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77) is 417-171 (.709), and 196-90 (.689) in the Big Ten, as the coach of the Michigan State basketball program. He ranks as the winningest coach in Michigan State history, having passed his mentor Jud Heathcote with his 341st career victory on Nov. 28, 2009 . In his 17 seasons as a head coach, Izzo has captured eight National Coach of the Year awards, including the Clair Bee Award in 2005 and NABC honors in 2001 and 2012. In 1999, Izzo was named National Coach of the year by Basketball Times, while earning similar honors from The Associated Press, Basketball News and the USBWA in '98. He also earned National Coach of the Year accolades from in 2012. He earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1998, 2009 and 2012.

Among The Big Ten's Best
Tom Izzo's .685 winning percentage in Big Ten games ranks third all-time among league coaches with at least 10 years of service, behind Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (.710), and former Indiana coach Bob Knight (.700), and ahead of former Purdue coach Ward Lambert (.685). In all games, Knight ranks first at .734, followed by Ryan (.723), Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell (.712), Izzo (.709) and Lambert (.709). With 196 conference victories, Izzo ranks sixth all-time.

Izzo Among Best Ever
Through his first 17 seasons, Tom Izzo won 412 games, ranking tied for second in college basketball history for most wins by a college coach in his first 17 years.

Izzo's Coaching Tree
Five current Division I head coaches all served as assistants to Tom Izzo, including Tom Crean (Indiana), Brian Gregory (Georgia Tech), Stan Heath (South Florida), Mark Montgomery (Northern Illinois) and Doug Wojcik (College of Charleston). Mike Garland served as head coach at Cleveland State for three seasons and Stan Joplin, an assistant during Izzo's first season, spent 12 seasons as head coach at Toledo. Jim Boylen was head coach at Utah for four years.



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